Ministry: Homicides at an all-time low in 2021
While 2021 saw a slight rise in crime as a whole, there was a fall in violent crime and the murder rate reached its lowest level ever, the Ministry of Justice says.
A total of 25,982 crimes were officially reported in Estonia in 2021, a rise of 0.6 percent on the previous year.
Of these, 11,551 constituted crimes against property, 7,057 were crimes against the person and 3,013 were traffic crimes, the ministry says.
Manslaughters and murders totaled 27, the lowest ever figure for a single year, the ministry says.
Half of all crimes were registered as committed in Harju County, the most populous region of the country and home to close to 50 percent of the Estonia's population, while Ida-Viru County posted 14 percent of the total and Tartu County 11 percent (bot are home to 10-11 percent of the national population).
The lowest volume of crimes were posted in three of the least populous counties: Põlva County in South Estonia, and the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa (the latter has a population of less than 10,000 people-ed.).
Justice minister Maris Lauri (Reform) expressed her pleasure at the rate of violent crime having fallen again.
She said: "A very good thing is that the number of violent crimes fell by 6 per cent and the volume of physical abuse fell for the second year in a row."
"It is very pleasing that the most severe violent crimes, namely murder, attempted murder and manslaughter, fell by almost half, from 50 to 27. Of these, 19 people died – the lowest figure in decades. I hope this rate of decline will continue," the minister continued, via a press release.
A total of 3,760 domestic violence crimes were registered, as noted 6 percent less than in 2020.
Domestic violence and ways to combat it have long been in focus in Estonia; Kersti Kaljulaid kept the issue in the public eye during her presidency.
Nonetheless, domestic violence constituted close to half the total violent crime figure for 2021.
Other highlights include a 10-year low for crimes committed by minors, which totaled 767 in 2021, along with 3,420 misdemeanor offenses committed by under-18s.
On this topic, the minister said: "Reducing juvenile delinquency has long been one of the main goals of criminal policy, and the work done is bearing fruit."
On thee other hand, the number of sexual crimes rose in 2021, particularly child sexual offenses, which rose to 303 (involving physical contact) and 360 (not involving physical contact).
The minister said that a greater willingness to report such crimes was in part behind the rise.
Lauri said: "The increase can be explained both by the fact that victims are more likely to dare to report sexual crimes, and by the good work of the police in detecting these crimes."
The vast majority - almost 90 percent - of perpetrators of contact sexual offenses against minors were people known to the child victim, while the average age of victims was 11.
The bulk of the non-contact offences involved the production and distribution of child pornography (215 offenses) and the sexual solicitation of children (126 offenses).
Theft also rose, by 9 percent on year to 2021, but at the same time the number of thefts over the past two years have been at an all-time low, the minister noted.
"We hope that last year there was a one-off increase," Lauri added.
Half of the thefts were committed in stores, the ministry says.
There were 3,527 such crimes in 2021, which is the same level as in 2020. Burglary fell by 16 percent, but vehicle break-in theft rose 37 percent.
Online scams have seen a particularly significant rise in the past year.
Corruption rose slightly to 87 offenses in 2021, though the number of criminal incidents here fell slightly, to 54.
Most corruption cases related to bribery and were reported by officials who said they had been offered a bribe, in many cases.
A former government minister is currently the subject of a corruption hearing.
Prosecutor General Andres Parmas said: "It is gratifying to see that there is a growing perception in society that trying to achieve success via dishonest means is not acceptable.
"The fact that the officials themselves have been informing law enforcement agencies about the cases of bribery and the reciprocal services offered [for such bribes] indicates that we have reached a growing expectation that the public wants an honest and transparent administration and functioning of the state," Parmas went on.
The original Ministry of Justice press release (in Estonian) is here.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte